Strength in Unity

Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:3

Trouble threatens unity. It happens in families and in churches. When the first church in Jerusalem was under intense pressure, immediately after Christ’s ascension to heaven, they let the pressure drive them closer together instead of breaking them apart.

Their first task after Christ’s ascension was to choose a replacement for Judas Iscariot. Peter led the group of 120 in an orderly process of nominating two candidates (Acts 1:15). They prayed that God would guide the casting of lots and Matthias was chosen. (Casting lots was the Old Testament means of finding God’s leading [Proverbs 16:33]. Lots are not mentioned again in the New Testament once the Holy Spirit came as the Church’s Guide and Helper.) What could have been a contentious process, with factions uniting around the two candidates, appears to have been simple, unified, submissive, and united.

From that example of unity has sprung two millennia of debate and division within the Church. In this day of criticism and antagonism against Christians, we need each other more than ever. Be a source of unity and mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21) wherever you worship.

In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity. Richard Baxter

Removing Worry From Our Life

Philippians 4:8-9

People fret over all kinds of issues, from safety and job security to election results. For many folks—and maybe you are one—anxiety is woven so tightly into the fabric of their day that they’ve learned to live with it.

We treat worry like a benign emotion when in fact it can be harmful. Anxiety clouds our thinking, divides our focus, and robs us of concentration. To complicate matters, the body can react to prolonged pressure on the psyche. Stress can manifest physically through tension headaches, elevated blood pressure, and even heart attacks.

Drifting through an exhausting life is not the Lord’s plan for us. Our challenge is to take anxious thoughts captive (2 Cor. 10:5) and replace them with God-pleasing ones by dwelling on that which is pure, good, and right.

The best way to remove stray threads of worry is to crowd them out with something positive. We do this by weaving Scripture into our mental grid instead. God has something to say about everything that concerns us. If we’re feeling weak or underqualified, Philippians 4:13 assures us we “can do all things through Him who strengthens [us].” If we fear the paycheck won’t cover this month’s expenses, Matthew 6:31-32 reminds us not to be anxious, “for [our] heavenly Father knows that [we] need all these things.”

Jesus said worry adds nothing to our life (Matt. 6:27). In fact, we actually waste time and energy dwelling on concerns instead of affirming our trust in the Lord. We must choose to set our minds upon Him before anxiety leaves us feeling frayed.

How Can a Man Be Just before God?

“Then Job answered and said, I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?” (Job 9:1-2)

Job was the most “just” (i.e., “righteous”) man of his age, according to the testimony of God Himself (Job 1:8; 2:3), yet his friends insisted his terrible suffering had been sent by God because of his sins. He knew he was innocent of the sins of which they were accusing him, and he knew he had earnestly tried to be obedient and faithful to God. Yet, he also knew that he, like all men, had come far short of God’s holiness (Romans 3:23). “I have sinned,” he confessed, “what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men?” (Job 7:20). “Cause me to understand wherein I have erred” (Job 6:24). And then comes the plaintive plea in our text: “How should a man be just with God?”

There is, indeed, no way by which a man can make himself righteous before God, for he is even born with a sin nature, inherited from father Adam. “If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse” (Job 9:20). Yet God created man for His own glory (Isaiah 43:7) and wants “all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). The great enigma is, how can God justify unrighteousness in men and still be righteous Himself.

The answer, of course, is that God, in Christ, has paid the price to make us righteous by dying for all our sins. “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

Even Job finally realized that God must somehow become his redeemer. “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and . . . in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:25-26). It is indeed wonderfully true that God can both “be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). HMM

Evil in Our Nature

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. —Psalm 51:7

Why should we delude ourselves about pleasing God in worship? If I live like a worldly and carnal tramp all day and then find myself in a time of crisis at midnight, how do I pray to a God who is holy? How do I address the One who has asked me to worship Him in spirit and in truth?

Do I get on my knees and call on the name of Jesus because I believe there is some magic in that name?

If I am still the same worldly, carnal tramp, I will be disappointed and disillusioned. If I am not living in the true meaning of His name and His nature, I cannot properly pray in that name.

If I am not living in His nature, I cannot rightly pray in that nature.

How can we hope to worship God acceptably when these evil elements remain in our natures undisciplined, uncorrected, unpurged, unpurified? Even granted that a man with evil ingredients in his nature might manage through some part of himself to worship God half-acceptably. But what kind of a way is that in which to live and continue?

Lord, it is the longing of my heart that I might worship You acceptably. Purge me and cleanse me, that the evil nature within me might be subdued. Amen.

Are Prayers Too Late?

For the great day of his wrath is come; who shall be able to stand? (Revelation 6:17)

John, in the sixth chapter of Revelation, describes the most tragic, unavailing prayer meeting in the world’s history!

Cries and groans, shouts and demands, moans and whispers—all will be heard in that coming Day of the Lord when the forces of judgment are released. Even the mountains and the islands will be removed from their places.

But by then, the prayers and cries of sinful men and women will be too little and too late!

All of the great men of the earth, all the important people, all who have mistakenly put their trust and hope in purely human abilities will join those crying out in guilt. They will call on the crumbling rocks and mountains to fall on them to hide them from the wrath of God.

I am among those who believe that the judgments of God are certain. We do not know the day nor the hour. But God is indeed going to shake the earth as it has never been shaken before, and He will turn it over to the Worthy One to whom it belongs—Jesus Christ!

Beyond measure it is desirable that we

Beyond measure it is desirable that we, as believers, should have the person of Jesus constantly before us, to inflame our love towards Him, and to increase our knowledge of Him. But to have Jesus ever near, the heart must be full of Him, welling up with His love, even to overrunning; hence the apostle prays “that Christ may dwell in your hearts.” See how near he would have Jesus to be! “That He may dwell:” not that He may call upon you sometimes, as a casual visitor enters into a house and tarries for a night, but that He may dwell, that Jesus may become the Lord and Tenant of your heart.